Reason #19 to Pick a New State Superintendent: Hiring CTB/McGraw-Hill in the First Place
Yesterday I debuted a new series on the blog: 20 Reasons to Pick a New State Superintendent. Throughout the next few weeks, I will be counting down a list that will probably exclude some of Janet Barresi’s more impressive highlights foul ups. When the series is over, I’ll probably have regrets about where I placed certain items or things blatant omissions, but I have no doubt I can come up with at least 20. Maybe I can do an Honorable Mention post at the end.
#19 – Hiring CTB/Mc-Graw-Hill in the First Place
This will be the first – but not last – mention of Oklahoma’s future former testing company in the countdown. In October 2012, the SDE announced that they would have to delay the 2013 Writing Tests (something that strikes a nerve this week!) because they had awarded the testing contract to its new vendor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, prematurely.
The February Writing Test has been delayed until Spring testing in April. Due to some administrative challenges, the SDE has placed the Grades 3-8 contract back out to bid.
We never found out what those administrative challenges were, per se, but we’ve been living with CTB ever since. The SDE re-announced the selection of CTB a short time later.
The list of problems we have had ever since them is long, and will be the subject of future entries to this countdown. Something tells me CTB will even have a top five appearance.
This was the point of origin, however. It was as if the SDE knew who they wanted to hire and would not be deterred from their choice. Be careful what you wish for, right?
Here were my thoughts at the time of the announcement that the SDE had to slow down:
Some administrative challenges? What does that even mean? Did CTB-McGraw Hill pull out after the fact? Did another vendor protest the contract? Did the Office of State Finance find an irregularity in the selection process?
This continues a pattern of inconsistency and poor communication of the testing process dating back almost two years. Throughout the spring 2011 testing cycle, school districts all around Oklahoma were struggling with Pearson – which at the time held all testing contracts for the state – to get student data pre-coded correctly into their files. As a result, batch after batch of test data came back incorrect during that summer. The SDE was not able to release test data to schools until October that year. Then, for some unknown reason, it took them another six months to issue the NCLB report cards.
During the 2011-12 school year, agency staff were falling all over themselves to assign blame to Pearson. From all indications, they deserved it. However, the lag between data being finalized and the ultimate issuance of federal accountability report cards was entirely the fault of the SDE. Yes they were shorthanded, but it was their choice to run off key personnel who were more equipped to calculate schools’ and districts’ API scores.
This summer, a new testing company was announced for the End of Instruction Tests: CTB-McGraw Hill. The big bonus was that they would be developing benchmark testing that schools could use for free (read: the cost is actually factored into your bid, Oklahoma). Those tests would come online this fall. Then they wouldn’t – the reason being that the SDE had also awarded CTB-McGraw Hill the testing contract for 3-8. Now they would be preparing benchmark tests for all tests (except social studies and science). So the roll out of these benchmarks would be in January. Maybe. Not to worry though, there will be more benchmarks later. Next year. Probably.
Those were simpler times then. I didn’t even know the correct placement of the dash or the slash in the company’s name. Sadly, now I do. I’ve had to write it dozens of times (not just here). I prefer just the three letter abbreviation now. It saves so much time.
A few months after this, Barresi would completely disavow any involvement in the selection of CTB. Another year later, she would claim that she couldn’t fire them before but would now. She still hasn’t, though.
As with the development of the state’s ESEA Waiver, this moment established a pattern. In this case, it was a pattern of mishandling contracts, testing, and every other major decision the SDE has faced. In fact with accountability as the cornerstone of Barresi’s 2010 campaign, the lack of transparency used in writing the ESEA Waiver and then selecting a testing company serve to underscore the SDE’s ineffectiveness in this regard. Few Oklahomans have faith in the test results or the school grades that result from them…which is a pretty good segue into the #18 reason…the Hearing No One Heard.